8 Must-Run Fall Marathons (Beyond Chicago and New York City)

The Best Fall Marathons That Aren't New York City or Chicago

If Google has brought you here, you may be searcing for a fall marathon after not getting into the Chicago Marathon or New York City Marathon. While it’s a disappointment to miss out on a desired race, rest assured: there are plenty of great fall marathons out there beyond the majors.

Chicago and New York are amazing races, with incomparable spectator support, the best of the best elites, and legendary histories of world records. However, entry to these races is not guaranteed (both have a system of qualifying times and lottery). If you can get in, there is still the fact that these big marathons are expensive (especially if you are traveling) and crowded. These are some of the must-run fall marathons in America beyond Chicago and New York City.

How did I pick this list? Coaching experience over the years. I have coached hundreds of runners. These eight fall marathons are repeatedly the most popular – and most enjoyable – after the majors.

Obviously, I have not run all of these races. These are only a small sampling of the many great fall races across the country. No matter where you live, you’re sure to find a good race! Many of these races include shorter distances as well. (If you are looking for the best half marathons, read here!)

1. California International Marathon

The California International Marathon is fast course with gently rolling hills and a point-to-point net downhill. Over the past few years, CIM has become known as the BQ Factory. While some years have rain, generally the weather is crisp, cool, and sunny. The race does sell out early, although you can often find bib transfers later in the year. The race is incredibly well-organized and always has thoughtful swag (in 2022, all finishers received a Nuun water bottle after the race.) (You can read my recaps of CIM for 2016 and 2017.)

  • Finishers in 2022: 8016
  • Downhill with rolling hills (~665 ft gain and ~1005 ft loss)
  • Point-to-point
  • Average race day temperature: 38 degrees F at start/47 at finish

2. Wineglass Marathon

The Wineglass Marathon is a fast and flat (slightly net downhill) race that attracts new and experienced marathoners alike. This race is slightly more rural – but also more scenic – than races like New York City. The race does sell out early and you will want to book your lodgings months in advance. Like CIM, Wineglass is a popular race for BQ- and PR-hopefuls.

  • Finishers in 2022: 1371
  • Downhill (~410 ft gain and ~610 ft loss)
  • Point-to-point
  • Average race day temperature: 43 degrees F at start/54 at finish

3. Indianapolis Monumental Marathon

If the Chicago Marathon is your dream race, consider the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon as well. This urban race features a flat and fast course that is perfect for your new marathon PR or BQ. However, this race can be cold some years.

  • Finishers in 2022: 4610
  • Flat (~300 ft gain and ~300 ft loss)
  • Loop
  • Average race day temperature: 39 degrees F at start/48 at finish

4. Twin Cities Marathon

Despite its harsh winters, the Minneapolis/St. Paul area is known for its running. The Twin Cities Marathon boasts that it is “the most beautiful urban marathon in America. The rolling hills course winds around rivers, lakes, and parks before finishing at the state capitol building.

  • Finishers in 2022: 6501
  • Rolling hills (575 ft gain, 495 ft loss)
  • Point-to-point
  • Average race day temperature: 40 degrees F at start/62 at finish

5. Detroit Free Press Marathon

Want to run in two countries during the same race? Look no further than the Detroit Free Press Marathon! The race begins in Detroit, crosses over the Ambassador Bridge into Windsor, Canada, and then returns to the US through the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel.

  • Finishers in 2022: 2269
  • Flat (390 ft gain, 395 ft loss)
  • Loop
  • Average race day temperature: 44 degrees F at start/58 at finish

6. Richmond Marathon

Richmond offers it all: enough people on the course that you are never alone, good spectator support, and a downhill finish. Some years can be hot and humid, so this race may not be best if you hate warm weather. But if you have a strategy, the course lends well to a first marathon or PR.

  • Finishers in 2022: 3385
  • Rolling hills (490 ft gain, ~580 ft loss)
  • Loop
  • Average race day temperature: 39 degrees F at start/61 at finish

7. Philadelphia Marathon

Philly can have bad weather, but it tends to be cold rather than hot. Over several years, I’ve coached runners to PRs and positive experiences at the Philly Marathon. (Personally, as a someone who lives in the West, if I had to run an East Coast Marathon, it’d be Philly.) The race is well-organized and the course is relatively fast (although not completely flat).

  • Finishers in 2022: 8420
  • Rolling hills (~750 ft gain, 750 ft loss)
  • Loop
  • Average race day temperature: 34 degrees F at start/51 at finish

8. St. George Marathon

St. George is a net-downhill race (with ~3050 ft loss!) in the scenic location of southwest Utah. It’s close proximity to the Las Vegas airport makes travel relatively easy. The weather can get hot (despite a cold start, that’s mountain states for you!), but this race will never be humid. One caveat: the race begins at ~5000 ft, so it may not be the best choice if you suffer from altitude sickness.

  • Finishers in 2022: 3481
  • Rolling hills (~500 ft gain, ~3050 ft loss)
  • Point to point
  • Average race day temperature: 37 degrees F at start/70 at finish

All statistics sourced from findmymarathon.com

Honorable mentions: Route 66, Columbus Marathon, Rehoboth Marathon, Marine Corps Marathon

Are you running a fall marathon? Learn more about my run coaching services here!

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33 Responses

  1. I’ve run Wineglass and CIM and liked both, although I think WG exceeded my expectations whereas CIM was a slight letdown. Maybe how my race days went at both? Anyhow, I’d love to run Portland sometime.

    1. Wineglass just sounds overall amazing, and it seems to have more consistent weather than CIM. Portland is an amazing marathon – I loved it and you should definitely run it someday! Oregon is beautiful in the fall.

  2. The Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon never makes it onto any of these lists, I guess because it’s small and no one has heard of it, but it is fantastic. The fast flat course is a perfect place for a BQ/PR attempt, the $80 price tag is very reasonable, and the race size of 3,000 is neither too big to feel at ease nor too small to benefit from crowd support. The best part of this race is that it is one of the most well-organized races you will ever run. It’s put on by the Badgerland Striders, our local running club, and they know runners and know how to run races. They’ve been putting it on for the past 35 years. Not only do they know what they’re doing, but it gives the race a more homey, local feel than the corporate feel that so many big races have. The environment and support from the local running community is top notch. People love and care about this race.

    Maybe I’m a little biased, it was my first marathon, but it really is a hidden gem. I’d love to run Twin Cities but it is always the same weekend as Lakefront, which I plan to either run or volunteer at every year.

    1. That does sound like a fun race! I really like local races – they have such a homey feel. Portland felt like a homey feel to me, especially compared to Go! St. Louis (which, funny enough, is in my hometown).

      1. I am from St. Louis too, just looking at the course for next April. I also prefer small races, my favorite is Fox Valley marathon near Chicago. I did it last year and it was pretty hot that day but very scenic along the Fox Valley river.

  3. I LOVED the Twin Cities marathon! It was beautiful (trees changing, lakes, nice neighborhoods) and a good challenge (the last six miles are all uphill). But best of all, the people there were incredible! The spectators had neighborhood parties to cheer on the runners, and I definitely felt lots of warm Minnesota hospitality. I would definitely do it again!

    1. Everyone raving about Twin Cities makes me really want to run it! Although those last 6 miles sound tough! Portland had amazing hospitality – similar to Twin Cities with spectator parties in the neighborhoods, and after a few months of the Seattle chill it was so welcome!

  4. I ran Hartford and was my first BQ. It’s a great course, while the out and back from mile 15-22 is a little tedious. it is flat and fast! And the weather is usually perfect! I also have run the Philadelphia Marathon in November (usually the weekend before Thanksgiving) which is also flat and fast! Although cooler, the course is great and very scenic!

    1. I just imagine the weather in New England in October is amazing! Philadelphia is another good one. It shows you how little I know about that part of the country, I thought it would be a really hilly race! I bet all the historical sites are really fun to see during the race.

  5. I’ve done Seattle a few times and yes, hills hills and more hills. That course is an ass-kicker! Beautiful though. The Portland marathon is next on my list.

    1. I didn’t know that about your husband! Marine Corps would be a really great one for you then! Races that are a short drive are always nice – the logistics are simpler and you can bring the family along!

    1. NYCM is such a big race, I can imagine the energy off of it must be exhilarating! That’s awesome that your dad has got to do it so many times! Maybe some day you will – and you would run such a great time!

  6. Richmond, Virginia is known as America’s Friendliest Marathon. I will be running it for a second time in a few weeks. Love it!

  7. Love this list! If I hadn’t gotten into Marine Corps I was considering either Hartford, Richmond, or Philly. I’ve only run one “big” race (Baltimore Half) but I really do love running with many people. Because I’m a bit slower, running in a big crowd means I’m not running the later miles alone! Many of these races do sound awesome for the future, though!

    1. Thank you – glad you found it helpful! Marine Corps will be an amazing race – I’ve heard the energy of that course is electrifying and inspiring. Good luck as you begin your training soon!! 🙂

  8. After not getting into Chicago today, I am “free” to figure out a great fall marathon! This list just added to my potentials! Chicago was great but I had to run with my hands over my ears during a few stretches because it was so loud… so a smaller race is probably better for me!

  9. Yes yes yes to Richmond! I scrambled to find a race late in the season and luckily, I chose Richmond. It is the perfect size and I am now a convert to midsize races in charming cities. Big enough for solid race and crowd support (pickle juice at mile 22! beer shots at mile 23!) and small enough that I stayed in a hotel ON the start line. I rolled out of bed, enjoyed a coffee and a bagel and walked outside for a leisurely start. (I loved you NYC but I don’t ever need to shiver for hours on Staten Island, again.) Really nice course takes you through all parts of a lovely city and that downhill finish is a gift. I can’t recommend it enough, especially for someone looking for a friendly, easy but also thrilling and exciting first race.

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